The last centuries of human history have witnessed a rapid increase in the human population on the planet. The improvement of the general conditions of life linked to the progress of medicine, to the technological breakthroughs has certainly helped to improve the life expectancy of many, to reduce infant mortality. Allowed an accelerated growth of the world’s population. However, everything has consequences. In this case, the exponential increase in the number of people on the planet inevitably leads to the harsh problem of overpopulation.
A huge puzzle, a complex concept, which has a very simple underlying thought. The earth is nothing but a container that travels through infinite space. A container with finite resources and a very delicate natural balance. Life is the result of natural evolution lasting millions of years. An infinitely great time for our human conception, some days in the life of the planet itself, less than a moment in the history of the Universe.
That is one of the basic problems. Humanity is lost in its infinite arrogance and its will to place itself at the center of everything. It is not yet aware of how infinitely small it is, in the infinitely great. We are not aware of how, in the end, on the global scale of time, our actions are derisory. How delicate are the conditions that allow us to exist in this very short fraction of time during which we believe to be the protagonist of events?
What is Overpopulation?
Overpopulation, a concept that is not confined to the human species, is an undesirable condition in which the number of existing species exceeds the actual carrying capacity of a place or in the human case of the Earth. With regard to other species, the problem of overpopulation is self-regulated over time by the intervention of natural factors, unless, of course, extraordinary external factors come into play.
A typical example is the dinosaurs that have populated the earth, self-regulating by nature, for millions of years. However, the external factor due to the probable impact of a large meteorite has upset the delicate ecosystem, due to the drastic change of habitat. As a result, this species has suffered a rapid mass extinction, making room, over time, for other forms of life more adaptable to the changing resources of the planet. From these species evolved humans, becoming over the millennia the dominant species, thanks to our ability to modify and structure the surrounding environment.
The path of human evolution, at least until a few centuries ago, had to respect the limits imposed by nature itself. However, with the advent of the high levels of technology, these boundaries have been “circumvented”, and the balance between man and nature has been broken. We began to believe that we could prevail over the surrounding environment, even on the planet itself. Let us remember, however, that here, once again, we are talking about the clash between something infinitely great and something infinitely small. It is the clash between the incidence of a fraction of a second against the perfect developments of an eternity. Something we have not been able to understand yet, even partially.
Effects of Overpopulation
The effects of overpopulation are manifold, severe, and often irreversible.
First of all, logically speaking, is the depletion of resources. As we said, Earth is a container with limited resources. As the number of consumers increases, resources decrease accordingly.
In addition, the growth in demand is fuelling the economic machinery that hunts the resources themselves. This includes the clearing of forests, the uncontrolled hunting of wildlife (on land and in the oceans), the production of more pollution, and a number of other devastating knock-on effects. Consumption of the primary resource needed for our existence is also rising: water, also well finished. According to several studies, human demand for freshwater would be about 70% of the available fresh water on the planet by 2025.
To all of this we must add the extraction of the resources that are needed to maintain the standards of living we know today. This involves greater extraction of coal, oil, and ores, and their subsequent processing. This production chain is also a major source of environmental pollution. A more industrialized society with more people also produces higher levels of CO2, which contributes to global warming.
The increase of humans on earth has a major impact on the survival of other species, especially wildlife. As demand for land grows, the destruction of natural habitats, such as forests, becomes standard practice. If current trends continue unchanged, as many as 50% of the world’s wildlife species will be at risk of extinction in the coming years, some scientists warn.
Feeding a growing population, while maintaining our current dietary standards, seems to be another unsustainable problem. As the population has grown, farming practices and intensive livestock farming have evolved to produce enough food to feed more people. However, these intensive farming methods cause damage to the planet and also contribute to the processes of climate change.
The inevitable scarcity of resources and the race for supplies, linked to the reduction of production areas, also due to the increase in environmental pollution and climate change, will inevitably lead to the emergence of new conflicts of various types and scales.
The struggle for resources is intrinsic to our human consciousness. Wanting to prevail over each other is part of the history of our species. To believe that the armed and violent struggle for resources is now a thing of the past is a utopia that has taken hold among those who are lulled and blinded by momentary prosperity.
The high firepower, especially atomic and nuclear, in the hands of various nations on the planet could lead to the complete collapse of human society in a very short time. The effects are comparable to the meteor disaster that led to the end of the Dinosaur Age.
Setting aside the lethal hypothesis of a widespread global conflict, the very high probability of the outbreak of hundreds of minor, internal conflicts within the nations themselves remains to be considered. Uncontrolled overpopulation also has disastrous effects on societal dynamics, affecting, for example, employment capacity and welfare output.
Dulcis in fundo, overpopulation dramatically increases the probability of the evolution and transmission of new diseases. This is a problem we know very well and which has been with us for two years now because of the global pandemic we are going through.
Are there any plausible solutions?
Given the complexity of the issue and its implications, which affect all levels of today’s society, it is difficult to devise plausible solutions. As introduced at the beginning of this article, the main underlying problem is the enormous deficit in awareness of this and other problems. The human being is more and more enraptured by his ego and lets himself be lulled by the momentary well-being that makes him blind and unconscious.
We have forgotten how much we had to fight, albeit in our relatively short history, to get to what we become today. We still haven’t realized that the only way we can continue to have a chance to exist in this boundless and mysterious universe is to become fully aware of who we really are.
Living beings, emerged in a tiny space of time, in a remote spot in the universe, but with a special gift, that is, the possibility of being able to ask ourselves questions, such as: “Are we the ones who belong to the world or the world belongs to us”?
Adriano Margarone for
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